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How to Deal with Wasteful Relatives at Christmas

written by: RobinRaven•edited by: Lindsay Evans•updated: 11/25/2009

If you're an environmentalist, seeing mainstream waste and excess around the holidays can be challenging. You may wonder how you can make a difference without seeming like the Grinch and Stooge of the green movement. Luckily, there are some subtle ways to deal with wasteful relatives at Christmas.

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    Invitations

    Start the feeling of being green early for the holidays. Send your Christmas cards printed on recycled paper, or send online cards if you want to go the non-traditional route. Since Christmas cards are often kept and preserved as keepsakes, it's often not considered as wasteful as other aspects of celebrating the holidays. Hopefully your efforts to reduce Christmas card waste will bring a greater awareness to your family members and friends who will share your merry season.

    When it comes to sending out invitations for a Christmas party or dinner, pick up the phone. If you talk to someone, you automatically get your answer to the RSVP. Even if it's a maybe, you know that the person received the invite and are aware that you request their presence. Follow it up with an email invitation if your guests regularly check email. Since Christmas often involves celebrating with older family members, consider printing party invitations from your computer. You can control how many you print and avoid any waste. Let the family member know why you chose to print them yourself in a friendly note. Explaining your decision can bring a greater eco-awareness.

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    Tact Over Confrontation

    When your friends and relatives arrive for your party, dinner, or celebration, sometimes obvious waste becomes apparent. Perhaps it's double wrapping or other choices, but it's important to not get distracted by the innocent mistake of your loved ones. If you make even a veiled comment, it will start the celebration on a bitter note. Instead of opening the minds of your relatives, you'll likely alienate them instead. You don't want someone going away with the impression that environmentalists are eager to bring her down or reign in on her rights. That will likely ultimately do more harm than good. A better solution is to later make clear why you chose to celebrate in the eco-conscious way that you did.

    When it comes to unwrapping the presents, you can mention that you like to gather it for recycling purposes. This will avoid both mess and waste frustrations. You can turn it into a joke, such as saying how you are behaving like a frugal lady, but explain why you are doing so. Sometimes people have no idea that what they are doing is wasteful in any way. The holidays are not the best time to preach, but they are a good time to express what matters to you within the proper context of the conversation. Simply keep it light-hearted and focused on what being green adds to your life.

    If the food at a feast is obviously in excess--and if the hosts mentions that it's going to waste--offer to use it in a compost. This will be a great way to explain what composting can do and how it can help.

    When playing Christmas music, you might want to add in the great song "Don't Cut Me Down" by Olivia Newton-John. It was written by the singer as she overcame cancer, and it's had many reasons to many people. It's an environmental tune written from the perspective of a tree, and some environmentalists choose it to play at the holidays. The tree-theme is a way to tie it in, but beware that using a real tree may be more ecologically friendly so be sure not to preach in that area.